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Tim Whiteman preparing Harleston Magpies to face 'surprise package' side

By Sport Diss

Tim Whiteman is preparing Harleston Magpies to face the side he has called the ‘surprise package’ of the season so far.

BACK IN: Tom Sumner
BACK IN: Tom Sumner

Magpies host Cambridge University, in a battle of fourth versus third in the current East Men’s League Premier A table, at Weybread tomorrow (1.30pm).

Both sides head into the contest with three-game winning runs, Harleston having clinched their hat-trick of victories with a 3-1 triumph at Chelmsford last weekend.

With only two points separating the two promotion contenders heading into the weekend, player-coach Whiteman is expecting a very close game.

“I’m expecting a tough game,” he said. “They’ve made an exceptional start to the season and have been the surprise package this year.

“With the England Hockey restructure meaning four teams go up instead of one, there are a number of teams aiming for the top four and I consider Cambridge to be one of those.

“Cambridge are one of the teams vying for promotion. They are always physical and extremely fit. They’re well organised and well drilled.

“I’m expecting a very close game. We won one and lost one against them last season and in both games we were second best, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

After starting the new season by picking up one point from their first two games, Magpies have since responded with straight wins over Letchworth, Ipswich and Chelmsford.

Whiteman, a former England international who returned to the club last year, has been pleased with the response from his fellow players following their slow start to the campaign.

“It definitely was a difficult start for us,” he said. “We played two very strong teams in Wapping and West Herts and only got one point out of it.

“We’d had an exceptional pre season, so that was really disappointing, but we’ve now won three in a row and I think it’s fair to say we controlled all of those three games.

“In the game against Ipswich at home, in the derby, we defended really well when we had to, and also our short corners are going very well, which is nice to see.”

Following tomorrow’s clash against third-placed Cambridge University, Magpies’ next four fixtures are currently scheduled against sides all below them in the table, with a trip to current leaders St Albans coming after that on December 1.

“Our aim is to finish in the top four and go up,” Whiteman said. “We stated that at the beginning of the season.

“I believe this is our chance and we have to take it. The guys are training really hard and we want to get the team back in the National League and put the club back on the men’s map.”

Magpies are set to be boosted by the returns of Ben Gowing and Tom Sumner for tomorrow’s clash at Weybread.

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